Monday August 15, 2022 | SOOKE, BC [Updated August 20, 2022 — see Grand Opening News Coverage]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
The little shop that could! From cramped beginnings in a Highway 14 storefront with minimal parking, the Sooke Family Resource Society (SFRS) Thrift Shop has grown to being a major revenue generator for SFRS programs.
Expansion to a new bigger location in Sooke town centre — with plenty of parking (though even that already overflows) took place last month. Volunteers from age five to 75 took part.
The move to 2065 Anna Marie Road happened on July 9 — during the same time frame of ramping up to the Sooke Fine Arts Show (a busy time for volunteers in the community community, who often take part in more than one event).
The building at 2065 Anna Marie Road is well known to locals. It’s where the old Sooke Library used to be, on a side street across from the back of Sooke Home Hardware.
There’s more space! The previous shop was 2,100 sq ft. The new 3,100 sq ft retail layout includes a sorting area at the back, and there’s a lunch room with kitchen. For a total of 4,000 sq ft.
The new washer and dryer in the back was donated at cost.
Ribbon cutting and more:
Now the big official celebration comes up this week! The lead-up starts with a half-price day on Thursday August 18 — everything in the store will be 50% off.
The next day– Friday August 19 — there will be a display by local artists display of ‘reuse and repurpose’ creations. Things like shopping bags made from T-shirts, pillows made from doilies, and silkscreen/tie-die items will be displayed.
Then on Saturday August 20 the official ribbon cutting will be held at 11 am, followed by music, hot dogs, and a floating fashion show. The whole town is welcome! Invited VIPs include Sooke Mayor and Council, people who helped with the store relocation, suppliers who helped out (including Sooke Home Hardware and the Sooke Lions) and SFRS board members.
Regular hours & special days:
The SFRS Thrift Shop is open four days a week — Wednesday through Saturday — from 10 am to 3 pm.
Donations are accepted on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm, using the drive-through around the back of the building.
Half-price days will be held on the 15th and last day of each month. Seniors’ day is held on the third to last business day of the month.
There’s an art to pricing things in a thrift shop. Sizes, quality, and variations on any particular product lead to a generalized pricing structure.
- At the SFRS Thrift Shop clothing and accessories range in price from $1.25 for socks to $2 for hats, $3.50 for purses, to $7 for jackets, $9.50 for coats, and $13.50 for suits. Gotta be specific on the price list sometimes! Flip flops are $3.50 a pair, leggings $4, and spaghetti tops $2.
- Linens like hand towels and placemats range from $1 to $3. Bedding ranges from $1.40 to $10.50, generally depending on the size of the item (e.g. double, queen, king).
- Kids clothes range from $1 for onesies to $2 for baby shoes to $3.50 for dresses.
- The ‘other’ category is a short list of old music formats (CD’s and DVDs), books (paperbacks, hard cover books and kids’ books), and picture frames.
- Housewares are individually marked, as is boutique clothing.
Transactions can be made by Visa, MasterCard, Interac (debit) or cash.
The new location see about 188 customers per day. That’s up from the old location where about 140 customers visited the shop. The boon in customer traffic flow is the availability of parking in the shop’s own parking lot.
Having run the store since the first location opened in October 2016, it seems there are at least four types of customers who come in to the shop, says SFRS Thrift Shop Retail Supervisor Bev Lewis, who spends store open-hours as the cashier at the checkout.
That includes people who really need the low pricing, people who live paycheque to paycheque, retired people who are “skilled at thrifting”, and people scooping up deal to sell online. After all these years, Lewis can tell pretty much who’s who.
A niche customer base is local artists who look for specific things by which to make and show their art.
Dropping off donations:
Donation of items to the SFRS Thrift Shop is done with a drive-through around the back of the building. People can drive up and unload their items with volunteers ready to select the items that are usable and also needed to maintain a full and complete inventory.
They do *not* accept any items that could have safety issues. That includes sports helmets, playpens, cribs and high chairs.
Donation day involves about 10 to 12 volunteers.
About Bev and launching the shop:
The verve and drive behind the SFRS Thrift Shop has been Bev Lewis from the start. She now retired from her previous work life as a manager in the finance and credit industry, where she says she applied a common sense approach.
She was on the Sooke Family Resource Society board last decade when the local Salvation Army thrift store closed. “It was Nicky’s idea,” says Bev about Nicky Logins who is the long-time SFRS Executive Director.
But Lewis took the project under her wing with great enthusiasm. She toured the island to see other thrift shops. She had worked some retail and had management skills. “Okay, let’s do it!” was the board’s verdict.
Who’s on the board:
SFRS offers a range of support services to the local community: Sooke Early Years Programs, West Shore Early Years Programs, Child Care Resource and Referral, Youth Services, Family Services, Adults with Disabilities, Counselling, Thrift Shop, Resources, and computer/Internet help desk.
Profits achieved through their own thrift shop help fill in any gaps in funding that are normally received or expected from government.
SFRS Board members currently include:
- Tim Klassen, Chair
- Ron White, Vice Chair
- Ed Rogers, Treasurer
- Ellen Bergerud, Secretary
- Adriana Martinez Fernandez, Director
- Bobbi Neal, Director
- Jean Trickey, Director
- Drew Johnston, Director
- Brian de Clare, Director
- Janice Alexander, Director
- Dal Little, Director
Lewis has a knack for organizing and motivating volunteers. Other than two part-time cashiers putting in nine hours per week (to spell off for Bev who otherwise works full time), all the people working at the shop are volunteers. Bev says she “utilizes their talents”.
She says she hand-picks people who she can work with, people who she’ll aim to bring out the best in them and in her as the manager.
One volunteer is a former librarian who focuses on the book section. A designer who worked in the previous store location had experience in retail. She lets people express and explore their interests, and then Bev delegates.
Most of the volunteers are ‘older’, in the age range of 58 to 75 years at the moment. They are all pretty much retired. They work over six to eight shifts every week.
On Tuesdays the volunteers restock the shelves and do a cleanup from the busy Saturday store day.
Two local women’s groups in Sooke — the Sooke District Lioness Lions and the Harbourside Lions — volunteer on a regular basis, two times a month. They helped with the move, as did the Sooke Lions (men’s club) with their trucks.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 the SFRS Thrift Shop was open only three days a week, says Bev.
The drive-through outdoor drop-off of donated items helps minimize shared-air within the store during that process. The store itself is open just five hours a day, four days a week. Though it does get busy in there!
Almost no one is wearing face masks right now in summer. But as the respiratory season is expected in the fall/winter months (influenza and COVID), people might start wearing masks indoors again.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR, has been reporting on the news of Sooke since 2008.
Ms Brooke’s series of publications started with the colour glossy quarterly MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, which morphed into the weekly grayscale print newspaper Sooke Voice News 2011-2013. In 2014, the publication launched more broadly as a weekly colour print/PDF newspaper West Shore Voice News 2014-2020. That led in mid-2020 to the fully online daily news portal Island Social Trends at islandsocialtrends.ca which covers news of the Greater Victoria area and South Vancouver Island region.
See the Island Social Trends SD62 News Archive for articles going back several years including a Sooke archive.
The Island Social Trends office has been based in Langford, BC since 2017.
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